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Q&A: The U.S. in Kosovo



CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour reports from Camp Bondsteel where President Bush visited troops on Tuesday.

Q. How long will troops stay in Kosovo?

A. Talking to members of KFOR and their commanders and to the U.N. political administration, they say while progress is being made, the mission is not over by a long stretch. They believe it will take several years -- at least four or five -- before the troops can leave.

The internal security situation is stabilising slowly but the Kosovo police corps (KPC) is still not fully able to match the kind of policing needed in any functioning state.

The U.N. is going for another another round of elections in November and they hope to build on the political institutions that have been reopened in order for Kosovo to stand on its own two feet.

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Q. Will U.S. troops stay for the same period?

A. There has been a great deal of debate on this since President Bush came to office. Within the administration there are open divisions about the merits of this peacekeeping operation. During the presidential campaign George W. Bush and his top aides publicly complained that peacekeeping duties like these degraded not only military skills, but morale.

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However President Bush has said publicly now many times: "we all went in together, we will all come out together." He has committed himself. Everyone you talk to in Kosovo believes the U.S. presence is a vital one politically and militarily.

Q. What is morale like among U.S. troops?

A. The mood is extremely upbeat. According to their commanders re-enlistment rates are very high for soldiers who do peacekeeping duties. The commanders say they and their troops are getting the kind of training they would never get at home base.

U.S. task force commander General William David told me his troops are "combat focused" with infantry troops making an impact on the civil war while also improving their own skills.

He says the mission is sharpening the skills of virtually all combat support teams, including intelligence, logistics, and communications specialists, and units coming out of the Balkans peacekeeping operations are better honed than those that have never been. For helicopter pilots, commanders say, six months flying in Kosovo equals three years at home base.

The troops told me they enjoyed the mission, it was what they joined the military to do. They felt they were getting great military experience. They really do believe their presence is making a difference.

Q. Will U.S. troops take part in a peacekeeping force in Macedonia?

A. It is unclear. A police force has been suggested so far but only after a political agreement is worked out by the two sides. The U.S. has indicated it would take part in some sort of limited way.






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